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Russia joins West over Libya for interests

06-01-2011 13:41 BJT Special Report:Int'l Intervention in Libya |

MOSCOW/CARIO, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev strikingly joined the Western powers in urging Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to give up power at the latest round of the Group of Eight (G8) summit in the northern French seaside town of Deauville.

Experts and analysts believe Russia made the move to protect its own interests in Libya and have a stake in the country's future. Yet they remain skeptical over whether Russia could help make a difference in the Middle East country.

WHY THE MOVE?

Ever since the bloody upheaval began in Libya, Moscow's decision-makers have been busy calculating whether Gaddafi would step down and whether Russia's interests on the ground could be recognized if the opposition rises to power. And the entangling seasaw battle in Libya made Russia's final answers hard to come by.

Feeling too early to pick side, Russia followed a more flexible path, condemning both the NATO-led air campaign and the hostile actions against civilians by Gaddafi's troops.

"The Russian position on the Libyan issue was based on the common BRICS ground of non-involvement in the conflict, of thorough balancing between three parties: the Libyan government, opposition forces and Western powers," said Fedor Lukyanov, chief editor of magazine Russia in Global Politics.

However, as time goes by, the repeated Western outcry to oust Gaddafi and the escalating Western-led air strikes over Tripoli might have helped Russia to make up its mind.

Said Lawendy, expert of international relations at Egypt's Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Xinhua in a recent interview that NATO won't halt its interference unless Gaddafi's regime falls.

Moreover, seeking to protect its interests and stay relevant in the post-conflict Libya is perhaps another key reason.

Russia sees Libya an important partner in the region,having poured billions of U.S. dollars of investment in Libya in sectors like oil exploration, railway construction and arms sales.

Already, a chaotic Libya is crippling Russia's investment there. According to a recent report on Russia's RBC daily, the war in Libya could set back Russian oil and gas investment in the country for many years.

Tatneft, a Russian oil firm, has invested heavily in Libya over the past six years, while Gazeprom, Russia's gas giant, spent some 163 billion U.S. dollars this February purchasing part of the shares of Libya's Elephant oil and gas production field project. The two companies were forced to suspend their operations and evacuate their workers in Libya because of the ongoing conflict, said the report.

As NATO air raids are gaining further momentum, it's only natural for Russia to start considering its own role as it cannot afford to stay out of the picture.

Meisant al-Janabi, professor with Russia's Peoples' Friendship University, said the Kremlin is attempting to prevent Libya's future from being shaped only by the West. Medvedev is trying to hedge the risk.

Additionally, some of the Western nations' promises and offers at the G8 summit also prompted Russia to make the turn.

At the summit, the Western countries pledged to facilitate Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization by the end of this year while ahead of the summit, France and Russia reached a deal under which Paris would sell four Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Moscow.

"It's no secret that every world power's politics is based on its own interests....So Medvedev has done nothing extraordinary. He just showed that Russia has calculated its possible benefits and losses," professor al-Janabi said.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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